Demand for unmanned surface vehicles driven by non-lethal assignments

A number of benefits relative to manned systems such as their low cost and long endurance are driving demand for unmanned surface vehicles (USVs). Countries are increasing their research and development (R&D) investments and procurements for these vehicles to stay on par with technological developments and to also reduce the risks to human life in operational areas such as mine sweeping and clearance, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company. 

Navies and companies that are cooperating with universities and research and development centers have been developing and experimenting with various types of USVs for many years, and have transitioned some of these efforts into procurement/manufacture programs. Even so, there are still many USV programs under development and at various technology demonstration levels.

GlobalData’s latest report, ‘The Global Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USV) Report’, highlights that USVs have emerged as a common feature of modern-day naval structures. Moreover, as they are deployed for more sophisticated naval missions, the degree of human control over them is progressively decreasing.

The primary missions of these USVs involve non-lethal assignments, such as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR), and mine countermeasures (MCM). Small vehicles in particular, such as very small USVs, small USVs and gliders are better suited to single type missions such as survey and ISR missions.

Captain Nurettin Sevi, Defense Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “Due to the ever-increasing applications and up-and-coming potential of unmanned maritime vehicles, many big defense industry companies continue to acquire proven firms such as Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Hydroid, L3 Technologies’ ASV Global and Sonardyne International’s 2G Robotics acquisitions. Moreover, unmanned maritime vehicles increase the opportunities for cooperation among companies in the fields of design, payload, ship or vehicle construction, autonomy and control systems.”

USVs can be equipped with a wide range of payloads such as navigation, sensors, communication, weapon and unmanned vehicles depending on their payload capacities. USV weapon payloads vary greatly depending on the mission and platform design. For instance, the Protector AT/FP is designed as a response to emerging threats against maritime assets and ever-increasing surface threat challenges. This USV can be integrated with the MINI-TYPHOON Stabilized Remote Control Weapon System (RCWS). In addition, an enhanced remotely-controlled water cannon system for non-lethal and fire-fighting capabilities can be installed to ensure the USV’s highly independent and remotely-controlled multi-purpose implementation.

Sevi concludes: “USV’s potential endurance and payload capacity is one of its most valuable attributes, giving it a significant advantage over comparably sized manned platforms, as well as UUVs and UAVs. It can collect data both above and below the waterline and accommodate UUVs and UAVs like a mother platform.”

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